Yerba Mate Master Guide: How to Prepare It and Where To Try Min Buenos Aires

Poné la pava que estoy cerca.

Put the kettle on, I’m close.

I’ve heard this phrase repeated so many times and one woman described it as the Argentine way of saying, “I love you.”

It is communal and ritualistic.

Mate is a major part of Argentine culture and it’s best shared.

I’ll never forget when an older man on a public boat in the Tigre Delta offered his mate to my friend and me, two strangers.

We took it and it wasn’t long before everyone on the boat felt like old friends.

Want to learn more about yerba mate and where to try mate in Buenos Aires?

This post is for you, so put the kettle on and keep reading.

QUICK NOTE: This post contains affiliate links and Sol Salute may receive a commission for purchases made through these links, at no extra cost to you.

History of Yerba Mate

I first started to learn about the history of yerba mate when we went on a road trip through Misiones, in Argentina’s northeastern jungle.

It dates back to the indigenous population, the guaraníes, the people who have always called this region home across Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina.

They used the yerba leaves as a sacred drink, an object of worship, and even currency.

Unsurprisingly it caught the eyes of the Jesuit priests who noticed how it increased the guaraníes’ energy after drinking it.

The Jesuits began to cultivate the tree on their missions and eventually it became known as Jesuit Tea, but we all know it never belonged to the Jesuits.

Nowadays you can visit Yerba Mate plantations in Misiones.

We toured a small family-run farm but you can visit large production facilities from major names.

There’s an official route you can follow, La Ruta de la Yerba Mate, to plan your own mate road trip.

A sheet covered in yerba mate gourds
Mate gourds and bombillas for sale in the San Telmo Market

Yerba Mate Supplies & Vocabulary

First, what do you need to prepare your mate?

  • Yerba – The actual tea leaves, you can get my favorite unsmoked yerba or popular brands like Playadito on Amazon.
  • Mate – The tea
  • Mate – The cup itself is also called a “mate”
  • Bombilla – The metal filtered straw
  • Termo – Thermos of hot water
  • Cebar – The act of serving the mate
  • Cebador – The server/preparer of the mate
  • Lavado – When the yerba is losing its flavor at the end, lavado is literally “washed out”
  • Tereré – Cold mate (often with juice mixed in), typical in the Northeast and in Paraguay, not as common in Buenos Aires

How to Prepare Yerba Mate

There’s more to just tossing the tea leaves into the cup, shoving a straw in, and steeping the tea.

Is this your first time making mate in your brand new gourd? Stop, first you need to cure it. The process depends on whether it’s a gourd or made of wood. Click here for steps.

Now, it’s mate time.

This is the strict step-by-step method on how to properly prepare your mate.

  • Fill your mate about 3/4 of the way with your yerba of choice
  • Cover the top with your hand and flip it over a few times to bring the dust and fine leaves to the top, this keeps your bombilla from clogging
  • Optionally, you can filter the yerba with a wire mesh sieve before adding it to your mate to eliminate the fine leaves and dust
  • With the yerba at a bit of an slanting 45 degree angle in the gourd, pour in a little bit of lukewarm water, let it sit for a couple of minutes for the dry herbs to soak in the water
  • TIP: The water should not be boiling like with tea or coffee, but just 70-80 degrees Celsius, give or take
  • Introduce the bombilla to the yerba and push it through until it makes contact with the bottom of the gourd
  • Now fill the rest of the cup with hot water, to the top of the mate leaves (some should remain dry, that’s fine!)
  • The cebador (server) will sip out this first cup and prepare a new one with hot water before giving it to the first person in the circle.
  • Do not say “gracias” until you are done; if you’ve had enough before the round is finished, pass it back and say “gracias” and the cebador willl know not to include you in the next round.

PRO TIP: One must NEVER move the bombilla. The straw (bombilla) can only be touched so as to steady it as you sip. Never, I repeat NEVER use it to stir and never agitate the leaves. Once the bombilla is in place, leave it alone or risk committing a major yerba faux paus.

The owner of the mate prepares the mate, always.

When he or she prepares the first cup, they’ll pass it to the first person in the circle/group. That person will sip it in its entirety and then pass it back to the cebador.

The act of pouring the water into the mate is called “cebar” and the person who prepares it is the “cebador.”

The cebador will pour another and pass it to the next person, and so it goes…

You can drink mate as it is, which is bitter, without adding any sugar. This is the most common.

If it’s just too bitter, add some sugar to the top of the leaves before pouring the hot water to sweeten it.

You can also add mint leaves, orange peel or lemon peel to flavor it. In fact, the brand Cbse sells flavored yerba to cut out the need to add your own.

A cup of Yerba Mate and a bombilla straw on a wooden deck

Where to try Yerba Mate in Buenos Aires

Mate is typically a make-it-yourself drink. It isn’t typically offered on menus like coffee or tea.

That said, there are some restaurants that do offer a yerba mate service for tourists to give it a try.

Restaurants Offering Mate Service

  • Las Cabras | Fitz Roy 1795, Palermo
  • Las Cholas | Arce 306, Las Cañitas
  • Cumaná | Rodríguez Peña 1149, Recoleta
  • Raíces | Av. Crisólogo Larralde 3995, Saavedra
  • Candela Mate & Café | Blanco Encalada 4102, esquina Holmberg, Villa Urquiza
  • Matea | Calle 11 533, La Plata – This one isn’t in Buenos Aires but in nearby La Plata, it’s the first Mate bar in Latin America so it deserved a mention

Yerba Mate Tours/Experiences

If you’re particularly interested in learning more about yerba mate in Buenos Aires, you can’t go wrong with a food tour/experience.

This Yerba Mate Experience is a complete tasting experience and master class.

You’ll learn more than you would at one of the restaurants listed above, where you’d only try it without the guide teaching you more, like how to prepare it or the history behind it.

Make Your Own at a Park

To drink mate like a local, make it yourself with friends at the park!

Heat up the water beforehand and fill your thermos.

You can also get hot water in most gas stations from vending machines that dispense hot water just for mate.

All of the beautiful parks in Buenos Aires are great for an afternoon mate with a friend.

Don’t forget the pastries!

Silver mate gourds for sale in a market booth

Where to Shop for Mate in Buenos Aires

To shop for yerba just head into any supermarket in town.

For organic yerba, dieticas often have a good selection like Kraus I mentioned earlier.

To pick up your own gourd/cup, these outdoor markets always have a good variety.

You can also go to a mate focused shop, like Todo Mates in Palermo.

You’ll see modern mate cups in just about any décor shop or bazaar, including silicon, metal, and carved wooden versions.

If you’re shopping from abroad, this starter kit on Amazon is great because it includes the cup, the thermos, and the bombilla.

Argentina Travel Resources

  • TRAVEL INSURANCE | It is always a good idea to travel insured. It protects you in so many cases, like lost luggage and trip cancellations, medical emergencies and evacuations. It’s very affordable with the potential to save you thousands in the case of an emergency. I recommend SafetyWing.
  • PHONE PLAN | These days, traveling with data is essential. Especially in Argentina where everything is managed on Instagram and WhatsApp. I recommend this E-SIM card. It’s hassle-free and affordable, for more read how to get an Argentina sim card.
  • ACCOMMODATION IN ARGENTINA is the most common hotel site used in Argentina and it’s where you’ll find the most options.
  • RENTAL CARS | I love to travel Argentina via road trip, I’ve always used, now they are operating under the umbrella of’s car rental system.
  • BUS TICKETS | Check Busbud for long distance bus routes and tickets.
  • VPN | If you’ll be using a public WiFi connection and want to secure your data, I highly recommend using a VPN, I personally use and have had a good experience with ExpressVPN. I also use it to access Hulu and American Netflix from Argentina.
  • FLIGHTS | Always check Google Flights and Skyscanner for flights to and within Argentina. Aerolineas Argentina is the local airline with the most routes. FlyBondi and Jetsmart are two budget airlines with dirt-cheap prices (but expect to pay for every add-on like luggage).
  • BOOK A CONSULTATION | I offer one-on-one travel consultations to help you plan your trip to Argentina. Pick my brain to get a local’s insight. Click here for more information.

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